Friday, June 16, 2017

Good Idea / Bad Idea: I-66 Bike Trail

Good Idea: A new bike trail along I 66, extending the existing Custis and WOD routes 22 miles west along redesigned I-66.  Thanks to the Arlington Loop - a beltway bike trail (Custis, WOD, and MVT) - Northern Virginia has become a utopia for bicycle transportation.  This is a build-it-and-they-will-come situation.  Early bike community helped promote good bike trails.  Bike trails attracted cyclists and bike commuters.  People started making housing, recreation, and entertainment choices based on the availability of good bike infrastructure.  Which led to more cyclists and more demand for good infrastructure.  The WOD trail, Custis Trail, MVT, Cameron Run and Holmes Run Trail, and the CCT are all tremendously well used and treasurers to Northern Virginia.

Extending the bike trail network west along I-66 is an excellent idea.  Demand for this infrastructure is already well established.  Creating the infrastructure will put more people on bicycles and less people on cars, reducing congestion and reducing pollution (it is an excellent step towards compliance with the Paris Accord).  These parks also lead to a more active healthier life style.

It's a good idea that has proven itself every time NOVA has built a bike trail.

Bad Idea: Building the bike trail in I-66 traffic.  Well.... I mean.... basically.  Unlike the WOD and the Custis trail, current plans are to build the bike trail right along 66 with a wee little fence between the bikes and traffic - and the sound barrier on the outside of the bikes.  OMG what a horrible idea.  I mean, dont get me wrong - I love the idea of bikes whizzing down the bike trail while the cars creep along the highway.  That has to be the best promotional effort for cycling.  But having cyclists, joggers, pedestrians and other patrons of the trail
  • suck 66 exhaust, 
  • while getting bleached in the 66 summer heat (highways are heat wells), 
  • enjoying the roar of the SUV (according to the Federal Highway Administration, "Levels of highway traffic noise typically range from 70 to 80 dB(A) at a distance of 15 meters (50 feet) from the highway") 
  •  while dodging highway debri and plowed snow
is not anyone's idea of fun and will hinder the success of the trail.
The solution?  Simple.
I-66 | Sound Wall | Bike Trail.  
Put the sound wall between I-66 and the bike trail, not outside of it.  This will shield trail users from exhaust, noise, and freeway sun.  This will make the trail an entirely different and better experience.

These trails are great investments.  Build them right and they can be huge successes.  But design flaws can make the investment a waste.  Let's get a good return on investment and build it right the first time.

Check out this FABB presentation on the bike trail:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cycling is Safe

How safe is cycling? 

Bottom line – there is no good data.  Think about it – think about how much you cycle.  Anyone recording those miles?  So how can anyone analyze injuries per mile.  They cant.  On the one hand, injuries go under reported – car traffic accidents have official reports – injured cyclists go home and wash up.  On the other hand, the miles ridden go vastly under reported.  We don’t know how many people ride.  We don’t know how far they ride.  And we don’t know injuries.  Basically we have some ad hoc reports.  Making matters worse, the data that is used compares miles traveled – as opposed to time traveled.  Compare miles traveled for bike versus car and you are going to get one answer – compare hours traveled for bike versus car and you are going to get another.

I have ridden a bicycle all my life.  When I was a teenager, I commuted to church – and I went on bike tours.  I commuted to college and graduate school.  And I have biked to work since my first job.  I have been in one accident.  I have been in multiple car accidents in my life (not of my doing, not with me driving).

How Safe is Cycling.  Its Hard to Say.  NYT 2013 (“Although many cyclists have strong opinions on the safety of their sport, the answer is that no one really knows how safe it is, or whether its safety has changed over the years. It’s not that there is a lack of data. Instead, it is that the data are inadequate to answer the questions. No one has good statistics, for example, on crashes per mile ridden. Nor do the data distinguish road cycling on a fast, light, bike with thin tires from mountain biking down dirt paths filled with obstacles or recreational cycling on what the industry calls a comfort bike. Yet they are very different sports.”)
Is Cycling Safe? Momentum 2014 (“or example, in 2012 in the US, 726 cyclists were killed in traffic crashes.1 But 22,912 motor vehicle occupants (including 39 bus occupants) were also killed, as were 4,957 motorcyclists and 4,743 pedestrians.1 Traffic deaths in 2011 in Canada (with about one-ninth the US population) included 51 cyclists, 1,420 vehicle occupants, 168 motorcyclists, and 315 pedestrians.2”)
How Safe is Cycling, BBC 2014 (while this article compares deaths per mile between bicycles and cars, it is useful to note the cause of fatalities of cyclists:  that would be cars.  In other words, a heavy portion of bicycle traffic in DC is on trails and separate bike lanes.  Get away from the cars and you get away from the problem).
Bicycling: The Safest Form of Transportation, Mr Money Mustache 2013 (“Under even the most pessimistic of assumptions: Net effect of driving a car at 65mph for one hour: Dying 20 minutes sooner. (18 seconds of life lost per mile) Net effect of riding a bike at 12mph for one hour: Living 2 hours and 36 minutes longer(about 13 minutes of life gained per mile)”)
30 Reasons to Take Up Cycling, BikeRadar 2014 (“according to research from the University of North Carolina, people who cycle for 30 minutes, five days a week take about half as many sick days as couch potatoes.”)
Benefits of Cycling and Walking Outweighs Harms, BBC 2016 (“regular exercise reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and several cancers.”)
How Cycling Makes You Smarter and Happier, Bicycling 2014 (“Arthur Kramer, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Our research finds that after only three months, people who exercised had the brain volume of those three years younger," says Kramer, referring to a study that examined the brains of 59 sedentary volunteers between the ages of 60 and 79 who either did an exercise program or were inactive for six months. A bigger, more connected brain simply works better. "Adults whoexercise display sharper memory skills, higher concentration levels, more fluid thinking, and greater problem-solving ability than those who are sedentary," says Kramer.”)
Is Cycling Safe? Yes, much more than we thought, LinkedIn (“Unfortunately, the draft guidance on Active Travel makes some woefully inaccurate estimates about fatality rates for cycling and walking. The source is pre-2006 census data, which even the author admits is vastly inaccurate. ”)
There’s Safety in Numbers for Cyclists, GRIST 2010 (“Research has been steadily showing, actually, that the more people are out there riding bicycles, the safer bicycling becomes. As ridership goes up, crash rates stay flat. It’s happening in Portland (see page 11 of this report [PDF]). It’s happening in New York City.” – basically, better infrastructure and cars learning to look for cyclists)

I choose safety as a major characteristic of where I commute and where I ride.  I choose not to ride with cars.  DC has GREAT bicycle infrastructure.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wed. Oct. 8th is Walk and Bike to School Day

Wednesday Oct. 8th is Walk and Bike to School Day.  Arlington has taken great strives towards safe routes to school and supporting cycling transportation.  Arlington schools have abundant high quality bicycle parking and those parking facilities are full! Washington & Lee High School has a bike club and many local students participate in the National Capital Velo Cycling Club. Arlington Police has participated in traffic enforcement in order to help support safe routes to school. 

Bike Arlington Sez:

When: @ 7:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Where:  Schools around Arlington
Who:  Arlington students, families and neighbors
Fee:  None!

What:  Each October, Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the County's WalkArlington and BikeArlington programs join forces to take part in this international event. Part of a month-long celebration, the event encourages students to walk and bike to school while teaching the health and environmental benefits of walking and biking. Walk and Bike to School Day also raises community awareness about the importance of pedestrian safety education, safe routes to schools, well-maintained walkways, and traffic calming in neighborhoods and around schools.

Arlington will celebrate International Walk and Bike to School Day on Wednesday, October 8 this year. Throughout the entire month of October, many APS staff and PTAs will incorporate activities focusing on biking and walking into the curriculum. 
Click here for more information

This promo video is from last year's Bike to School Day


Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Day on the Farm

My day at Schaeffer Farms did not go well. 

Schaeffer Farms is potentially the best mountain biking park in our area. Located in the hinterlands (out beyond Gaithersburg), Schaeffer Farms is a park that is a farm that is a mountain biking course. 15 miles of rolling trails wind their way through woods, creeks, farmland and cornfields, giving cyclists different levels of terrain and difficulty. The average grade is 2.8% (a bit more than train grade) while the steepest grade is 8.1%. Trails wind and climb through creeks, bridges, boulders, and trees, giving skilled cyclists ample opportunities to crash. 

The trail network in Schaeffer Farms was built by Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (aka MORE) in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources. The MOCO Epic  mountain bike race starts and finishes at Schaeffer Farms. 

Excited for a day on the trails, I attempted to turn my "hybrid" Cannondale Bad Boy into a cross-bike, swapping on 33 nobbies for my 700 wheels. Well guess what…. they didn't fit. Even though the Cannondale is a "hybrid," simply moving up to 33s was too fat for the bike. Apparently, "hybrid" means I can put on mountain bike tires if I drop down to 26" wheels. Well.. great

I wasn't going to give up on the day, and by cycling partner had already hit the trail with his new crossbike - so I attempted to mountain bike on my 700 x 28c tires. The Bad Boy is a good bike made to take abuse, and abuse it I did. I did a good route over the river, er creeks, and through the woods. It was an excellent ride and I am proud to say I did not crash into any trees. However, the terrain clearly dictated riding on nice soft balloons (mountain bike tires). Afraid of damaging my rims, I called it a day. 

My cycling partner, however, had skillfully failed to avoid the tree that leaped out into the trail in front of him. 

Schaeffer Farms is an excellent mountain biking park. Time for Rule #12


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Stay Safe: Courtesy of the W&L Bike Club #bikedc

The Fall Equinox brings shorter days.  Shorter days brings darkness.  Darkness brings bike lights.

Celebrating the Fall Equinox, the Washington & Lee Generals Bike Club, in cooperation with Bike Arlington, recently decorated student bicycles parked in front of Washington & Lee High School with lights and reflective give aways. 

One of the truly incredible things about this the tremendous number of bicycles you see in front of W&L every day.  APS recently installed a new bicycle rack in front of the school, increasing the parking capacity at that spot by approximately 50%.  And already the new rack is full every morning.  Cycling to school at W&L is booming and growing.

The Bike Arlington program of giving away bicycle lights and reflectors is an excellent investment in promoting safe cycling in Arlington.  Commuting home, I regularly see these lights on bikes, turning invisible "ninjas" on the trails into PALs. Giving lights to students is great way of promoting safe routes to school.

Nice job W&L Bike Club!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Arlington County Board Approves Easement for Washington Blvd Trail #bikedc @arlingtonva

The Arlington County Board in its meeting this week reportedly approved of an easement from the Navy along Washington Blvd in order to accommodate a new multi use trail for pedestrians and cyclists.  From the Board's agenda:
Deed of easement amendment 001 for public recreation, pedestrian and bicycle path on property owned by the United States Government and located on the Naval Supply Facility, Arlington, Virginia, RPC #34-013-001.
C.M. Recommendation:   Approve the deed of easement amendment 001 (attached to the staff report) for public pedestrian and bicycle path (amended deed) on property owned by the United States Government and located on the Naval Supply Facility, Arlington, Virginia, RPC #34-013-001. In addition, authorize the Real Estate Bureau Chief, Department of Environmental Services, or his designee, to accept, on behalf of the County Board, the Deed of Easement attached to (the) Board Report as Attachment 1, subject to the approval as to form by the County Attorney.   

Photo by BankBryan (cc Flickr)
This is an important connection between the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and the Pentagon City area going North-South. This clears the way for the construction of the trail to be placed out for bid, with a potential completion date for the trail of the summer of 2015.

ArlNow recently reported that the path of the trail had been realigned in order to avoid the removal of multiple mature trees, but also necessitating the acquiring of the easement. 

This will be a tremendous addition to the Arlington trail system.  The Arlington Loop (the MVT, the Custis, and the WOD) has created a heavily used beltway of cyclist transportation along with a recreational opportunity for joggers, dog walkers, skaters, and pedestrians.  When bike commuters are polled where they come from, they predominately answer from along the trails.  Smart infrastructure leads to smart cycling transportation.

What is missing - badly missing - is a trail through the center of the county along Washington Boulevard.  A North-South trail will be another huge step forward in Arlington's cycling infrastructure, making access to everywhere in the county easy by bicycle.

Monday, September 22, 2014

How Would You Fix the Intersection of Doom? Updated @voteforvihstadt @alanhowze #bikedc #arlingtonva

When last these two candidates met in an election, we asked them a series of questions about cycling in Arlington.  You can read their responses, linked below.

This election, we have asked them a simple question:  How would you fix the intersection of doom?

Here are their response tweets so far:

Photo by Alyson Hurt (cc Flikr)
Alan Howze || Previous Response
long-term reroute. Short-term implement adopted changes + signal changes (NPS/VDOT) so cars not turning right into bike/ped +

+ enhanced enforcement + detailed data collection on incidents across Arlington

+ safe streets across all of Arlington - not just trails - safe routes to school, work, etc - much more we need to do!

as a bike commuter I am very familiar with the intersection and its dangers for cyclists, pedestrians and runners. 
 John Vihstadt || Previous Response
Thanks for writing. @ArlingtonVA staff working to improve @RosslynVA #IntersectionOfDoom. Asked for update. Will report back.
The Intersection of Doom has been a problem for decades.  1000s of cyclists and pedestrians go across this intersection daily.  Because the infrastructure is terrible, they get forced out into the street, they get hit, and then they get ticketed by a callous NPS cop who cant figure out that its not a pedestrians fault when the infrastructure is terrible. In other major urban environments, a dangerous or congested intersection would have a traffic officer assigned to facilitate traffic flow. For as long as I have lived in Arlington, the County has promised that solutions are on the horizon.  Meanwhile, crossing the Intersection of Doom is a form of Russian Roulette.  Arlington County claims to be going for the gold certification for a Bike Friendly Community - they even - almost ironically - constructed a cycling totem pole at the Intersection of Doom spending piles of money on a counter instead of spending piles of money on risk mitigation and safety.

We are Arlington cyclists.  We are frustrated.  We want to know: How will you fix the Intersection of Doom.

Candidates, we will be glad to post any updated responses.